Interview: What it’s like teaching English in Vietnam
If you are thinking about moving abroad to teach English, you’ll want to find out as much as you can before packing up and leaving. This interview with English teacher Meghan, who is currently living and working in Vung Tau, gives us the full lowdown on what it’s like teaching English in Vietnam.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Meghan and I am 30 years old. I grew up in Canada and have been working with children for over 15 years. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher and travel. I believe that it’s important to experience new places that will open your eyes to new ideas and new mentalities in order to grow as a person. As soon as my mind was made up to move abroad, I sold everything and never looked back!
2) You currently teach English in Vietnam. Can you give us some details about your job?
I work for an International language centre in Vung Tau, Vietnam. I prefer working in a centre to working in public schools because the lessons are longer and therefore I can build stronger relationships with my students. I teach ages 7 to 15 years old and my class size averages between 10-19 students. I enjoy the company I work for and feel like an asset here, however, my job in the north wasn’t as rewarding.
3) How did you prepare to move to the other side of the world? How did your friends/family react?
When I made the decision to move abroad I was very nervous about the unknown. I joined expat community groups on Facebook and received very helpful advice on how to make the first few steps. I did my TESOL course and applied online for jobs in Vietnam. It happened very fast and as soon as I had an interview, I was hired. My friends and family were very supportive of my decision and are proud of my accomplishments. In two weeks I sold everything I had and I now own 3 bags of belongings. Becoming a minimalist is also life-changing. I only buy things if I need them and therefore save a lot of money. It feels good to know I can pick up and move to another country whenever I want.
4) What are the best parts of teaching English abroad?
The best part of teaching English abroad is that I get to wake up every morning and do something I never imagined myself doing. I love teaching and never feel unhappy about going to work.
5) What qualities do you think are important for an English teacher?
I think that it’s very important to enjoy working with children. You should also develop positive relationships with your students. Always take the profession seriously but not the classroom environment. Make fun and engaging lessons and make sure your instructions are as simple as possible.
6) What are the challenges of living in Vietnam?
The main issue that most people encounter when moving to Vietnam is learning the language. Vietnamese is a very challenging language to learn with all its tones and accents. At times it can be frustrating to communicate but if anything, you’ll just be improving your charades skills! When I want to speak Vietnamese in the community most people either don’t understand me or just want to practice their English.
7) What’s the biggest difference between Asia and Canada?
One of the biggest differences I’ve found is that at night is when everyone comes out to socialise. In Canada, you would never see kids playing outside or in the streets at 10:00 PM. Here everyone opens up their homes, eats outside and has a late dinner together. Vietnamese spend all their day preparing food but back home it’s more common to get something quick and easy. Kids go to school for 10 or more hours a day here and then study in their free time. In Canada, kids get more play time and rest. The biggest thing I miss about home is nature. I love camping, hiking and being out in the daytime. Normally, in Vietnam, it’s way too hot to go outside until after 5:00 PM, or it’s raining!
8) What has been your favourite country that you have ever visited?
I have travelled to 6 countries and Vietnam is my favourite. I’ve spent more time here and have embraced the culture into my everyday life. Sometimes I feel like I am living on another planet, but that’s what makes it more exciting!
9) What are your plans after Vietnam?
My plans are to go back to Canada for a short visit and then head to Costa Rica to pick up a six-month teaching contract. I’ve decided I would like to travel to a new country every year. I feel very lucky to live this kind of lifestyle.
10) What would you say to someone who is thinking about teaching English abroad?
I would say you have already made the right decision by choosing to teach abroad. Join expat groups online and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. There are times when you will struggle or feel that things won’t work out but they always do. You will meet some amazing people and it will be a life-changing experience.
11) Do you have a favourite quote or piece of travel inspiration?
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”